The emerging scientific discipline of 'Environmental Forensics' could make it easier to prove, to the satisfaction of a court of law, who is responsible for instances of pollution.
In particular, it could play a key role in facilitating development of contaminated brownfield sites by cutting the cost of associated legal proceedings and reducing the time required to reach negotiated settlements between those involved.
The current status of environmental forensics will be described at this year's BA Festival of Science in Norwich, with particular emphasis on its potential contribution to the future development of brownfield sites.
Building on brownfield sites has huge potential to meet a range of society's industrial, commercial, residential and leisure needs, but many sites are polluted in some way (e.g. by chemical contamination of the soil or groundwater). The EU Environmental Liability Directive due to come into force in 2007 will make it necessary to determine who is responsible for such pollution so they can be required to meet the cost of remediation (i.e. the 'polluter pays' principle).
By determining scientifically and incontrovertibly who caused an incidence of pollution, environmental forensics will make legal proceedings arising from the Directive quicker, more straightforward, and therefore less expensive. This will remove some obstacles to brownfield development. It will also be of benefit to major projects already under way, for example, the redevelopment of the site for the 2012 Olympic Games in East London and the Clyde Gateway project in Glasgow, which includes the potential site for the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Although the individual skills that environmental forensics incorporates (e.g. ecological impact analysis, chemical analysis, hydrogeology etc.) are already well-established, the objective of this emerging discipline is to integrate these skills and apply them in a legal context. In particular, it aims to harness the significant body of experience that exists in the field of forensic science to help guide investigation and evaluation of incidents of environmental pollution.
A major research programme at Queen's University Belfast, funded by the EPSRC, is currently working to promote the application of forensic science in the field of environmental science and to achieve this by focusing on real, live issues and cases. Professor Bob Kalin, who is leading the research programme, will deliver the presentation at the BA Festival on 8th September.
Professor Kalin will explain how environmental forensics focuses on identifying how and when contamination took place, its extent and impact, and – where appropriate – whether there have been any attempts to illegally 'cover up' an incident. He will also outline specific case studies of brownfield development where environmental forensics has already been or could have been applied.
"Environmental forensics aims to offer an authoritative, effective and efficient way of proving or disproving liability for pollution," says Professor Kalin. "It could reduce the scope for argument, minimise legal hold-ups, cut the length of court cases and so speed up brownfield development in future."
Notes for Editors
The 5 year Environmental Forensics initiative at Queen's University Belfast, which is receiving EPSRC funding of nearly £450,000, is due to run until 2010.
This year's BA (British Association for the Advancement of Science) Festival of Science takes place in Norwich from 2nd - 9th September. Hosted by Norwich Research Park, the overall theme is 'People, Science and Society'. The event is one of the UK's biggest science festivals and attracts around 400 of the best scientists and science communicators from home and abroad who reveal the latest developments in research to a general audience. For more information, visit www.the-ba.net.
Professor Bob Kalin will be giving a presentation on the topic 'How do we transform brownfield sites into safe, attractive places to live and work?' at 15.00 on Friday 8th September at LT3, Lecture Theatre building. Professor Kalin will also be taking part in a press conference at 9am at the BA Festival on 8th September where he will be discussing his work.
A brownfield site is defined as land previously used for any purpose but no longer used for that purpose.
The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is the UK's main agency for funding research in engineering and the physical sciences. The EPSRC invests more than £575 million a year in research and postgraduate training, to help the nation handle the next generation of technological change. The areas covered range from information technology to structural engineering, and mathematics to materials science. This research forms the basis for future economic development in the UK and improvements for everyone's health, lifestyle and culture. EPSRC also actively promotes public awareness of science and engineering. EPSRC works alongside other Research Councils with responsibility for other areas of research. The Research Councils work collectively on issues of common concern via Research Councils UK. Website address for more information on EPSRC: www.epsrc.ac.uk/
For more information contact:
During the BA festival you can contact Professor Bob Kalin via the EPSRC press office. Contact Natasha Richardson (mobile: 07920 587517, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or tel: 01793 444404). Images are also available from the EPSRC Press Office.
Contact details for Professor Bob Kalin, Department of Civil Engineering, Queen's University Belfast, once the festival has finished - for further enquiries regarding his research, tel: 02890 974018, Email: email@example.com
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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